Kathmanudu, Nepal
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Nepal on Thursday rejected a United Nations call to compensate an Indigenous man it said was forced to work as a child then tortured by police on escape, since he had not exhausted the legal avenues for redress.

The UN Human Rights Committee, a panel of independent experts with no enforcement powers, said the man should win compensation from the state after it blocked him in the courts.

Kathmandu street scene

The streets of Kathmandu. PICTURE: Safal Karki/Unsplash

Nepal - known as a key hub for migrants and forced labour - dismissed the accusation, saying it had complied fully with international standards.

Home to 30 million people, Nepal's men are vulnerable to exploitation and its women and children fall easy victim to abuse as overseas labour, trafficking experts say.

The case was seen as a test of Nepal's willingness to deal with the problem.

"This is the case of the abuse of a child. This is a heinous crime and the government must punish the guilty people," Dinesh Tripathi, a human rights lawyer, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In a ruling this week, the panel told Nepal to "remove all existing obstacles" that hinder victims of forced labour and torture from filing complaints and taking cases to court.

The appeal came in response to a case brought by a Nepali man who had worked as a domestic worker in the capital, Kathmandu, since the age of nine.

The man - his name was withheld by the UN - told the committee he was not allowed to go school, was beaten, abused, and received no pay.

Upon escaping, the man said he was accused of theft by his former master, arrested then tortured in police interrogation.

Kathmandu's police chief denied the accusation.

"Police do not torture anyone. We have strict training and guidelines against torture. If any one is found guilty of this, he is punished," Uttam Raj Subedi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The case was passed to the UN body by a Swiss charity working in Nepal after multiple, failed attempts by the man to file complaints at home, according to a report by the committee.

Senior government official Koshal Chandra Subedi, joint secretary at the Prime Minister's office, said the views expressed by the UN committee were "baseless" on two grounds.

The man had not "exhausted the domestic remedies", he said, and did not file a complaint within the statute of limitations.

"Nepal has already complied with international norms and standards including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The UN body, which oversees nations' compliance with the covenant but lacks enforcement authority, has asked Nepal to report back in six months on how it will address the situation.

The committee called on Nepal to compensate the man "proportional to the gravity of the violations suffered".

It also urged Nepal to amend its laws and statutes of limitations to bring them in line with international standards, and toughen its criminal punishments for torture and slavery.

"It is our hope that Nepal will take all necessary measures to protect and help victims of such acts regain their lives," Hélène Trigroudja, a member of the UN committee, said in a statement published earlier this week.